Oslo’s war on cars targets Americans

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Climate-concious officials at the City of Oslo, keen on restricting cars in the Norwegian capital, are now putting the brakes on a traditional event at the annual American Independence Day festivities in the Frogner Park. They’ve banned this summer’s popular vintage American car enthusiasts’ AMCAR exhibition, and protests are shifting into high gear.

The annual AMCAR exhibit has long been a popular and colourful part of annual American Independence Day celebrations in the Frogner Park. Now it’s being run off the road by officials at City Hall. PHOTO: AMCAR Lillestrøm

“Cars are a big part of American culture and a popular event at the celebration of the American national day (4th of July),” a bitterly disappointed Henning Kjensli of AMCAR Norge told newspaper Aftenposten. He and his colleagues were stunned when they were told late last week that their annual exhibition of vintage American  cars wouldn’t be allowed at this year’s American Independence Day celebration, which has drawn thousands of people to the Frogner Park for the past 35 years.

The reason for the ban, according to AMCAR, was that “cars on display in the park don’t harmonize”  with the Greens- and Labour Party-led Oslo city government’s “green profile,” and that it would “send the wrong signal” to allow the exhibition. The ban was issued by the city agency in charge of parks and recreation, Bymiljøetaten.

“The fact that the city government has a political agenda to limit or get rid of private cars in downtown Oslo is a fair issue,” Kjensli fumed to newspaper Dagsavisen as well, “but forbidding an exhibition of vintage cars that’s been part of a fine cultural arrangement in the Frogner Park for many years is cheap political symbolism.”

Leaders of the AMCAR club and its partner Raceworz Norway hope the ban amounts to “a misunderstanding on the part of an over-eager city employee handling the case,” and that it will be reversed. That seemed unlikely, given the response from the city agency itself.

‘Green lung for people, not cars’
“We are very restrictive about leasing out areas of the Frogner Park,” insists Richard Kongsteien, communications director for the city parks agency. He denied the ban was based on Oslo’s “green profile,” stressing in an email to Dagsavisen that the Frogner Park is simply vulnerable to wear and tear. He noted how the park is under preservation orders and not suited for a car exhibition that’s traditionally been held on a wide expanse of grass behind the stage set up for Independence Day ceremonies and entertainment. He claimed it would be “very unfortunate” to allow a large number of cars into the park.

“This is also a green lung in Oslo, and families, tourists and residents come here to get away from car traffic, something we also included in our evaluation,” Kongsteien told Dagsavisen. He claimed the ban was based on a “professional” evaluation of what the park can tolerate and how it should be used. “In the Frogner Park, it’s people and not cars who have priority,” he stated.

The vintage car exhibit hasn’t been viewed as a problem in previous years, however, with Kjensli claiming that neither AMCAR nor Raceworz Norway have ever registered or received any complaints about damage to either trees or the grass where the cars are parked. “On the contrary, the club has only received a flood of compliments and good feedback,” he said.

Other events ‘still allowed’
Kongsteien told Dagsavisen and Aftenposten that “we can understand it’s disappointing for the enthusiasts not to be able to show off their cars at such a central spot in Oslo.” He also said the city was “in dialogue” with the American Coordinating Council of Norway (ACCN) that organizes the annual Independence Day celebration, scheduled this year for Sunday June 28.

“They (ACCN) will still be allowed to hold the event that involves both stands and activities, but car traffic will have to take place somewhere else,” he wrote to Dagasvisen. He added that the city was willing to discuss an alternative location for an AMCAR exhibition, which is also part of a nationwide car hobby in Norway.

AMCAR wants to continue to be part of the American holiday celebrations, stating on its website that “AMCAR cannot let such an attack on a Norwegian car hobby stand. We’ll be following this up with the City of Oslo and our political network. The last word has not been said!”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund